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Lutein for Myopia: Can It Protect Your Eyes?

There are rumors that lutein is good for children with myopia. Many parents of children came to ask about this matter, which aroused my curiosity.

Large clinical studies have confirmed that lutein is good for the eyes, but I have never heard that lutein can prevent or treat myopia. Is it a new discovery? Or am I ignorant?

01 What exactly is lutein?

Lutein is a pigment widely found in green vegetables. This pigment is yellowish-red in color and can effectively absorb blue light. From this point of view, it does have the effect of protecting the eyes.

Lutein is concentrated in the macular part of the human eye in the human body. So where does the macula come from?

External light falls on the retina, so we have vision and see the world. The center of the retina is called the macula, and human central vision is mediated by cells in the macula area.

The functions of these cells in the macular area are inseparable from three important pigments, which are lutein, zeaxanthin and racemic zeaxanthin. The chemical structures of these three pigments are very similar.

Among them, lutein and zeaxanthin cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be obtained through diet, while racemic zeaxanthin can be converted from lutein by the human body. Lutein and zeaxanthin are widely found in food, especially in green leafy vegetables.

Simply put, lutein is widely present in food and is also one of the important pigments in the macula on the retina.

02 Can lutein supplementation prevent myopia?

Is there any relationship between lutein and myopia? Can supplementing lutein improve vision and even prevent myopia?

I spent a lot of time to find only four articles on myopia and lutein.

Study 1:
Published in a Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology in 2012, a study on 22 healthy Japanese subjects found that after 3 months of oral supplementation with lutein, the concentration of macular pigment in the retina of people with myopia below 400 degrees increased. , there was no increase in people with myopia of more than 400 degrees; and in people who supplemented zeaxanthin, the density of retinal macular pigment did not change.

in conclusion:
To put it simply, the result of the article is that if your myopia is above 400 degrees, eating lutein is equivalent to eating in vain, because the lutein concentration has not changed; for people whose myopia is below 400 degrees, the lutein density has increased, which is not the case. No conclusion was given as to whether lutein is effective in preventing and treating myopia.

Study 2:
An article published in the journal Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmo in 2013 mentioned that among 173 Chinese myopic subjects aged 18-65 years, it was found that in myopic patients with an axial length <26 mm, the axial length and Macular pigment concentration does not matter.

Only in patients with myopia whose axial length is >26 mm, the retinal macular pigment density is reduced. An eye axis >26mm is pathological myopia, that is to say, only in the case of pathological high myopia (greater than 600 degrees), the macular pigment density will be low.

in conclusion:
The conclusion of this article is basically the same as the previous article, but the numbers are slightly changed. For people with high myopia, the concentration does not change after taking lutein. For people with low myopia, after taking lutein, lutein in the macula increases. , and then there is no more.

Study 3:
An article published in the journal J Fr Ophtalmol in 2016 observed the macular lutein density of 32 patients with high myopia and found that patients with myopia of 1500 degrees with certain complications had a higher density than patients with myopia of 1100 degrees without complications. Low.

in conclusion:
This study has a very small number of people. It is similar to the second study above, in that the higher the myopia, the lower the density of macular lutein. The authors concluded that more research is needed to see whether lutein supplementation can protect against complications caused by high myopia.

Study 4:
A 2017 study of Europeans over 65 years old published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that people with high blood lutein concentrations had a lower risk of myopia.

in conclusion:
This is only a correlation study, and the causal relationship between lutein concentration and myopia risk is not known, and the study subjects are elderly people, not children.

These four studies on lutein and myopia can be summarized as follows: lutein may be related to myopia, but the specific relationship is not clear.

Scholars are not clear whether eating lutein can increase the lutein density of the retinal macula; even if it increases, what effect it has on myopia; whether lutein itself can reduce myopia…

Moreover, these limited studies are all studies with small samples. Therefore, there is still a lack of clear research support on whether additional lutein supplementation has an impact on the occurrence and progression of myopia in children.

03 Does oral lutein really have no effect on the eyes?

Probably not.

A large number of studies have found that lutein supplementation has significant benefits for dry age-related macular degeneration and can delay the development of the disease. Some studies have also shown that lutein supplementation can hinder the development of age-related cataracts.

Currently, the AREDS 2 (Age Related Eye Disease Study) formula has been used clinically to slow down the development of moderate dry age-related macular degeneration. Its ingredients contain 5 mg of lutein and 1 mg of zeaxanthin (in addition to 250 mg of vitamin C and 200 international units of vitamin E). , zinc 40 mg, copper 1 mg), but there are currently no supplement recommendations for cataracts.

Therefore, lutein has obvious benefits in protecting the eyesight of the elderly. Although this benefit is not realized in children, when caring for children, don’t forget the elderly at home.

04 Which natural foods contain lutein?

In actual life, there are more foods rich in lutein, such as: spinach, kale, corn, colorful peppers, kiwi, grapes, orange juice, zucchini and pumpkin. Lutein is easier to absorb when eaten together with fat (it does not mean that you should eat fat meat, it is meant to be taken with other foods normally).

Moreover, fruits and vegetables are inherently healthy foods, so it is recommended to eat more foods rich in lutein instead of simply obtaining lutein through supplements. If you must take additional lutein, adults should not exceed 20 mg per day, but there is currently no recommendation for a safe dose for children.

05 These are the real ways to “protect your eyes”

Wear sunglasses

Summer is coming, and the sun is getting dazzling. The American Optometry Association (AOA) once mentioned that children’s eyes have better permeability than adults, and ultraviolet rays can more easily reach the retina.

Therefore, when going outdoors, it is best to wear a pair of sunglasses for your children (how to choose a pair of sunglasses, please see the previous post: “Why is it important to wear sunglasses for children?”).

Reduce eye use at close range

Whether it is an electronic screen or a paper book, long-term use of eyes at close range may increase the risk of myopia.

Develop good eye habits

For every 20 minutes of using your eyes at close range, look 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds. This rule applies to paper books, computers, mobile phones, etc.

2 hours of outdoor activities per day

Studies in recent years have found that children who spend a lot of time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia. If possible, let your children spend 2 hours outdoors every day.

Get regular eye exams

For the prevention of myopia, school-age children (6 years old) should start to have a comprehensive eye examination every year. The examination items include visual acuity, refraction, dilated refraction, fundus examination and axial length.

If myopia is discovered, follow up as directed by the doctor based on the actual situation.